Jewish ‘disloyalty’ comments ‘unwelcome and downright dangerous’

Jewish groups, leaders and politicians slam the president for controversial comments.

By
August 22, 2019 02:45
US President Donald Trump wears a kippah while delivering a speech at Yad Vashem in 2017

US President Donald Trump wears a kippah while delivering a speech at Yad Vashem in 2017. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

American Jewish groups and leaders expressed anger and shock on Wednesday over US President Donald Trump’s remarks in which he said Jews who vote for a Democrat “either [have a] total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s founder and dean Rabbi Marvin Hier, and the associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, told The Jerusalem Post that they “believe that since 1948, the overwhelming majority of American Jews, irrespective of party affiliation, unequivocally support the State of Israel.

“We also affirm that this bipartisan support is absolutely essential to the future well-being and security of the Jewish state,” the center’s leaders said. “To say otherwise, and depend only on one party, particularly in these turbulent times of increased hate and antisemitism, only weakens and divides the most important Jewish community in the Diaspora.”

The center pointed out that “it was [Democratic] president Jimmy Carter who presided over the Camp David Accords, and Republican Ronald Reagan who helped open the gates of freedom for Soviet Jewry.

“It was Democratic president Harry Truman who made the historic decision that the US would recognize the State of Israel, and Republican Donald Trump who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem,” the center told the Post, adding that it “reiterates its call for both parties to reduce the rancor that harms the bipartisanship so desperately needed by our democracy.”

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon in which it broke down the Jewish “disloyalty” charge throughout history, the Anti-Defamation League said that this claim “has been used to harass, marginalize and persecute the Jewish people for centuries. Sometimes referred to as the ‘dual loyalty’ charge, it alleges that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens because their true allegiance is to their co-religionists around the world or to a secret and immoral Jewish agenda,” the group stressed, adding that this antisemitic allegation “posits that non-Jews should not trust the motives or actions of their Jewish neighbors, who may be engaged in deceitful behavior to accomplish their own goals at the expense of others.”

The ADL pointed out that “one of the most infamous examples of this charge is the case of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, who was convicted of espionage in a French military court in 1894 based on flimsy evidence and widespread public discussion of this emancipated, successful Jew’s loyalty to France.

“Sometimes the allegation of Jewish disloyalty is connected with a social or political movement,” the organization explained. “In the late 19th century, some antisemites alleged that Jews’ true loyalty was to Marxism [later Communism] or some other revolutionary ideology.”

More recently, the “age-old accusation has morphed into a modern antisemitic belief that Jews should be suspected of serving the interests of the State of Israel rather than those of their countries of origin.”

Today there are allegations that “Jews’ true loyalty to Israel should disqualify them from being seen as American patriots, or that they should be suspected of being deficient in their progressivism.”

The ADL highlighted how Arab governments have also justified campaigns “to drive out thousand-year-old Jewish populations from their midst with the charge that they were Zionist or Israeli spies.”

In the United States, “the most prominent examples of the disloyalty charge have alleged that Jews conspired to involve the US in foreign wars against the nation’s true interests. In the years leading up to World War II, isolationists opposed American involvement in the conflict, claiming the struggle was little more than a ‘Jewish cause.’”

According to the ADL, the dual loyalty charge has also reared its ugly head in US politics.

In 2000, Sen. Joe Lieberman “was criticized in certain circles when he ran as vice-president on the Democratic ticket for the White House, accused of being more loyal to Israel than America despite his decades of public service.

“More recently,” the ADL continued, “the disloyalty charge arose when an interviewer implausibly asked Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders whether his ‘dual citizenship’ with Israel disqualified him to serve as US president.

“This claim was a total fabrication based on little more than his Jewish faith and rumors that circulated on the Internet,” it added. “Let’s be clear: denouncing the antisemitic charge of Jewish disloyalty does not mean that one has to close one’s eyes to the fact that many American Jews have emotional attachments to Israel.”

It emphasized that the notion in which “Israel is important to many American Jews” becomes antisemitic once it’s used “to impugn Jewish loyalty or trustworthiness. The connections between American Jews and Israel is exactly the types of connections that other ethnic groups in the United States have with their ancestral cultures and countries,” it stressed, adding that singling out American Jews, “with their complex and varied sets of relationships with Israel, its culture and society, and to then suggest that they should not be trusted citizens, patriots, or progressives, is a perpetuation of the antisemitic disloyalty charge that Jews have suffered from across the centuries.”

Earlier in the day, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan) took to Twitter to speak out “about the use of an antisemitic trope by the president,” calling it “unfortunate.”

“When the president calls Jews ‘disloyal’ for voting for Democratic candidates, the implication is that American Jews have a dual loyalty – to our country and to Israel,” she said. “This is a very old attack that Jews have had to deal with for generations, where our loyalty to country is questioned simply because of our religion.”

Slotkin said Trump’s remarks “continue a deliberate and misguided attempt to make support for Israel a partisan issue, breaking with a bipartisan tradition that goes back to the founding of the state of Israel. It is simply toxic.”

Former US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Martin Indyk tweeted in response, “Disloyalty? Trump is saying that American Jews should be loyal to Israel? And therefore vote for him? How about we prove our loyalty to America by voting this idiot out of office?”

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tweeted that Trump is “disgusting, of course. But this deserves to be mocked, even more than condemned. He’s literally pushing the Jewish Democratic vote higher every time he speaks.”

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) said it was “outraged” by Trump’s comments.

AJC CEO David Harris dubbed the comments “shockingly divisive and unbecoming of the occupant of the highest elected office. American Jews – like all Americans – have a range of political views and policy priorities. His assessment of their knowledge or ‘loyalty,’ based on their party preference, is inappropriate, unwelcome, and downright dangerous.”

The AJC later called on Trump “to stop such divisive rhetoric and to retract his disparaging remarks.”


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